Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Remembering George Carlin

As collectors we all have "stuff" and fondly remember comedian George Carlin, who died this week. His routine describes most of us. "That's all you need in life, a little place for your stuff. That's all your house is: a place to keep your stuff. If you didn't have so much stuff, you wouldn't need a house. A house is just a pile of stuff with a cover on it. That's what your house is, it's a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get more stuff. Sometimes you gotta move, gotta get a bigger house. Why? No room for your stuff anymore. You've gotta move all your stuff, and maybe put some of your stuff in storage. Imagine that there's a whole industry based on keeping an eye on your stuff." How true!


One of the first commercial multipage United States telephone directories, Vol. 1, No. 1 for New Haven, Conn., was printed in 1878, just two years after the phone was invented. It listed 391 subscribers. Estimated at $30,000 to $40,000, it sold last week at Christie's for $170,500. The phone book included instructions on how to use the phone: "Never take the telephone off the hook unless you wish to use it. Commence the conversation by saying 'Hulloa.' When you are done talking, say 'That is all!'"

Our phones have changed since then, but the old-fashioned, heavy 1950s phones with cords are back in style. Repros are being made that use new technology, but the old ones use much less electricity than new cordless phones. Save energy and recycle--find an old phone.


Q: I have an 18-inch General Douglas MacArthur doll that I received for Christmas in 1942 or '43. Heaven knows why my mother thought I would want that doll when all my friends received cute dolls with clothes they could change into. The only thing the general can do is salute. I would love to sell him, so will you please let me know what I might be able to get for him and how I could go about selling him?

A: The Freundlich Novelty Corp. of New York City made your portrait doll and a lot of other World War II military dolls--from U.S. Army soldiers and Navy sailors to WAACs and WAVEs. Your doll's body, including his cap, is made of composition, a mixture of sawdust and glue that can be easily molded. The General Douglas MacArthur doll was made about 1942. If you had his original tie, belt, and cardboard tag, you might be able to get up to $400 for him in an online auction or at a doll auction. Without the tie, belt, and tag, chances are your doll would sell at auction for about $100 to $200. If you decide to sell it to a dealer in your area, you can expect the dealer to pay you about half the doll's retail value.


Q: I have an ironstone platter marked "Plankenhammer" with an eagle, swastika, and the date 1941. Can you tell me more about these marks?

A: Porcelain Factory Plankenhammer was in business in Plankenhammer, Bavaria, Germany, from 1908 to c.1978. This crossed-hammers mark with the word Flass (flowed) was used from c.1920 until the factory closed. The eagle carrying the swastika was the insignia for the Luftwaffe, the German air force, from 1933 until 1945. Your platter was made for use by the Luftwaffe.


Collectors tip from one of our readers

It is fairly easy to discern ivory if you know what it does NOT look like.

Cast resin whale teeth or other cast resin pieces usually have tiny burst bubbles in them that leave small round depressions in the surface. Also, the cavity in the bottom of the tooth will not be deep and will not mirror the contour of the outside. Best test is to hold the item about 2 inches over a stove burner. As it heats up it gives off a noxious plastic odor.

Bone, which is organic, will normally show either a uniform blanched white surface or numerous tiny parallel lines. If you hold bone over a stove burner, as it heats up it will begin to smell like chicken bones left on a barbecue grill.

Ivory, regardless of the animal it comes from, normally has some apparent wavy grain like woodgrain that you can find someplace on the surface. If the object includes the entire round tusk, you can see crosshatching just inside the outer "skin". If held over a stove burner, it will give off the same smell as bone as it heats up.

On fake scrimshaw, the "engraving" and artificial scarring are the same shallow depth. A fake whale tooth generally also shows parallel saw marks across the bottom (open end).

Collectors tip from one of our readers--Dr. Jerome C. Ford from

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Strawberry Shortcake Gets a Makeover

Strawberry Shortcake, who moved to Hasbro from American Greetings this month, is a doll from the 1980s. She and her other fruit-scented friends have been given total makeovers. Strawberry has had a facelift, lip plumping, freckle removal, and a nose job. She also has longer hair, a dye job, green eyes (they used to be brown) and a new wardrobe from Juicy Couture. Will collectors think she is the same doll? Will she and her friends remain popular?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A Special Request From A Reader.

"I have a collection of 40 or so chamber pots that I seem to enjoy far more than any member of my family. I would love to find a home for my collection. Do you know of a place that might accept and treasure this rather unusual grouping?" Does anyone know of a museum that would like a collection of chamber pots?